December 8, 2000

I never got enough opportunities: Amre

It was a dream debut. A century in his first Test innings - and in a historic game at that. But after that, his career nosedived - or was it because he did not get enough opportunities? In Chennai, while representing Goa in the KS Subbiah Pillai Trophy South Zone limited overs tournament, Pravin Amre spoke to CricInfo in an exclusive interview.

Q. What performances gave you a position in the Mumbai Ranji team in 1986/87?

A. I was the captain of the West Zone U-19 team and I scored heavily in that season in the Cooch Behar tournament. The final of the inaugural MA Chidambaram Trophy was at the MAC stadium in Madras against Rest of India U-19. I scored 206 in the first innings and followed it up with 157 not out in the second. Those scores helped me get a place and I got my Mumbai cap against Karnataka that season.

Q. Your One Day International debut was in the historic match against South Africa at the Eden Gardens. How was that experience?

A. I was very happy and it was a very special occasion for me because I was making my debut for my country and it was also the return of South Africa to International cricket which was a historic event. There was a red carpet treatment and a lot of ceremony involved in that match.

Q. You played a match winning innings in your debut match. What were you thinking when you went out to bat at number six ?

A. It was a very happy occasion for me but I could not get a higher batting number because there were top batsmen in the team. India lost four wickets for 60 runs and when I walked out, Sachin was at the non striker's end. We decided that we had to have a partnership as we wanted to win this historic match. I played well and got a halfcentury and we won that match.

Q. How did you get your Test debut in South Africa?

A. It was a historic tour as for the first time any country was touring South Africa after their return and it was very special for me because I was making my Test debut after being the twelth man for ten Test matches before that. So I was lucky to make my debut there.

Q. It was a dream debut for you, scoring a hundred and earning the Man of the Match award. What inspired you in that match?

A. When I went in to bat, I was thinking that I would grab this chance and play to win for my team. I played well and I was lucky that day that I was middling the ball from the beginning. Kapil Dev was the non striker when I got my hundred. He came and congratulated me. It was a great honour for me to be batting with a great all-rounder and I was happy that he was there when I reached my milestone.

Q. Why did you choose to play for Railways and Rajasthan after leaving Mumbai?

A. My coach Ramakant Achrekar always told me that it was important to play for the country and not just for a Ranji team, so I first joined Railways and I got a job in Air India based on my performances for the Railways so I continued to play for the Central Zone and represented Rajasthan for seven years.

Q. How did you get a contract in South Africa as the first overseas player? How was the experience?

A. It is a fact that very few foreign players have been able to score a century on the Durban wicket. The CEO Andrew Brovens approached me and based on my performance in Durban I was invited to play for Boland in the first division in South Africa. I played well and helped them to their first championship.

Q. Which innings would you rate as special in your first class career?

A. I remember the innings in the Irani Trophy, where I scored 286 against Bengal. I was playing for Rest of India, the score was 40 for four when I walked in to bat. I had scored three centuries in the Duleep Trophy that season but still did not get a chance in the India team. I scored a hundred in the final of the Duleep Trophy. After that I would have had to wait for six months for another first class match but luckily I was called for the Irani Trophy match. I grabbed the chance and scored a double hundred.

Q. Why was there a sudden fall in your performance after the dream debut?

A. I always used to bat at number six in the one day games and I hardly got five or ten overs to play when I came in to bat. I had to play for the team's cause and I tried my best to score as many runs as possible in those slog overs. At times I had to bat even at number seven as Kapil Dev was sometimes promoted over me in the slog overs. I never got enough opportunities to settle down and play a long innings.

Q. How was the World Cup experience in Australia?

A. I was there with the team for five months and we lost the Test series. I did not even get to play any first class match on that tour because I was branded as a one day player. I got my chance in the World Series match and I did well against West Indies in Perth, that gave me a place in the World Cup team. I will always remember that match against Australia as it was a very close game.

Q. Why is that Mumbai is unable to produce quality cricketers as in the 80's and early 90's?

A. I, along with many cricketers from Mumbai, were coached and trained by Ramakant Achrekar. He used to spot talent in the boys who mostly came from middle class families and give them chances to play club cricket and nurtured them to become world beaters. But in recent times he has been suffering from ill health and is unable to devote his attention to the boys.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I played Ranji Trophy matches for the last four years but was unable to break into the Duleep and the Deodhar Trophy. I thought after having a successful stint in South Africa, I would be in contention for a recall. Now I don't think that is possible. I am thinking of organising a tour for youngsters to South Africa so they can have good experience by playing on bouncy tracks.